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Advancing Care - 2023 | Issue 6



The how, when and why of lung cancer screening

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, taking the lives of nearly the same number of people who will die from colon, breast and prostate cancer combined. While you may fear a diagnosis of lung cancer, a simple exam offers the best opportunity to find cancer early in high-risk individuals ‒ and can give you the best chance for a positive outcome.

Why should I screen for lung cancer?

A key to surviving lung cancer is catching it in its earliest stages when it is most treatable, said Benjamin Newton, MD, a medical oncologist with Smilow Cancer Hospital and assistant professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology) at Yale Cancer Center who treats patients at Smilow Cancer Hospital in Waterford and Westerly. “The survival rate for lung cancer is based on the stage of the cancer at the time of the diagnosis. A higher stage means that the cancer has spread more. The earlier that a lung cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it is that treatments can eliminate it,” he said.

Early-stage lung cancers are much more amenable to better long-term control through surgery, radiation treatment and medical therapy," Dr. Newton said. “This is why screening is so important. In addition, early-stage lung cancer almost never causes symptoms, so the main way to diagnose it is with a scan.”

Learn more about lung cancer screening > 

Colds, Flu, RSV, oh my! Where to find the care you need

’Tis the season when respiratory viruses spike. But how do you know if it’s a cold, the flu, RSV or COVID? And where do you turn? Start with your doctor, but the following guide can help you choose the most right setting to get the care you need – which may save you time, money and get you better sooner.

If you need immediate care for a life-threatening illness or injury, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Visit our guide to the best treatment > 

Questions about migraines? We have answers.

Is it a headache or a migraine? If you’ve ever had a migraine, you are painfully aware of the difference. Olivia Coiculescu, MD, PhD, a neurologist with Northeast Medical Group in New London who is affiliated with Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, explains how a migraine differs from a headache. 

Who is most likely to get migraines? What are the risk factors?

There is a significant genetic component to migraine. Many people who are diagnosed with migraines have a family history. Environmental factors, however, play an important role. For example, studies show that your diet may change the intensity and frequency of migraines.

Both men and women get migraines, but overall women are three times more likely to have migraine headaches than men. The incidence of migraines is also higher in young people between the ages of 18 - 44.

What makes a migraine different from a headache?

The symptoms of migraine can vary from person to person. Migraine pain is characterized by throbbing head pain, usually localized on one side of the head. You may experience not only a headache but also dizziness, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to touch, smells and light. It may last up to two or three days and often prevents you from performing daily activities. 

Some people with migraines experience what is known as an “aura,” where they see light flashes, blind spots, shimmering lights or zigzag lines.

Neurological deficits such as difficulties with speech, vertigo, vision loss or weakness may be associated with headaches in a small number of patients.

Are there triggers for migraines? 

Your physician will talk to you about starting a headache diary, which can help identify triggers. Some people may already be aware of certain triggers such as changes in weather pressure, alcohol and specific foods. I usually recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners and anything that contains monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer often added to restaurant foods, canned vegetables, soups, deli meats and other food items.

Caffeine and caffeinated drinks may also trigger migraines, especially when consumed in excess. Other triggers may include hormonal changes, variations in the sleep schedule, strong sensory stimuli (such as bright lights, strong perfumes, cleaning agents, smoke), exercising in hot environments or overexercising when out of shape. While stress is often considered a migraine trigger, the release of stress can be an even bigger trigger than the stress itself – which can lead to “let-down migraines.”

What are some treatments for migraine?

Behavior modifications can help. Do not skip meals; stay well hydrated; and keep a regular schedule on both weekdays and weekends, if possible. Also watch your caffeine intake and note how many caffeinated drinks you consume. Relaxation techniques can help, as does avoiding any triggers.

Migraines can be effectively managed with medications recommended by your healthcare provider. Medications can be preventive or abortive. Preventive medications are taken daily or monthly to prevent headaches from happening. Classical treatments include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, antidepressants or antiepileptics. For migraines that are difficult to treat in patients who experience more than 15 headache days per month, Botox is often recommended.

Abortive medications are taken as needed to treat the symptoms after a migraine begins. These medications may range from regular over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen (with or without caffeine) to triptans and gepants.

Triptans treat migraines by changing how blood circulates in your brain and how your brain processes pain signals. They don’t typically prevent migraines, but they do stop them while they’re happening. 

Gepants target specific receptors on sensory nerves and can treat symptoms like headache pain, sensitivity to light or sound, nausea and vomiting when people feel an attack coming on.

When should I seek medical attention?

If your headaches are frequent and disrupting your life, talk with your physician. You can get relief from migraines. There are so many therapeutic possibilities, and they can be individualized for each patient.

Seek immediate medical attention if your headaches have appeared suddenly, and if you also experience changes in vision and hearing, fever, weight loss, an altered mental status or any neurological deficits. These can be a sign of a more serious condition.

Quit smoking with L+M Tobacco Treatment course 

Ready to stop smoking? Lawrence + Memorial Hospital offers an eight-week Tobacco Treatment course that provides strategies to stop smoking and using tobacco products. The program, led by a team of exercise physiologists and respiratory therapists specially trained in tobacco treatment, includes counseling and a support group. 

The class meets on Mondays from 5 - 6 pm beginning Jan. 22 through March 11. The first and last class are in-person at L+M Hospital, Baker Auditorium, 365 Montauk Ave., New London. All other classes are held on Zoom. A link will be provided, and a $50 class fee will be collected for materials. 

To register or for more information, contact Lisa Chatowsky at 860-442-0711, ext. 2354.

L+M Auxiliary seeks members and volunteers 

Join the hundreds of people of the Auxiliary at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital who have devoted thousands of hours to support the hospital, meet the needs of patients in southeastern Connecticut and improve the health of the community. 

Founded in 1914, the Auxiliary has continually raised funds to help support a variety of programs and departments, including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Waterford, the Emergency Department renovation project, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Speech and Language Pathology, the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut and the Healing Garden (an area set aside for families and friends who need a place to find comfort and quiet). 

Members are a dedicated, dynamic and diverse group. New members are always welcome and contributions of time, talent and/or resources are appreciated. As a member, you can be as active as your schedule allows. For more information about becoming a member today, contact [email protected].

Virtual group offers support for patients with TBI

A free support group for people with an acquired brain injury/TBI is offered on the third Wednesday of every month. The group meets virtually at 6 pm. For more information and to receive the meeting link, contact Eileen Cicchese at [email protected] or call 860-442-0711 ext. 2393 and leave a message. 

Find a provider at L+M or Westerly Hospital 

Are you looking for a physician? Call 833-346-3637 or visit our “Find a Doctor” feature for information on physician specialties, office hours and locations as well as insurance plans accepted. Many of our physician practices offer telehealth video visits for your convenience.

Interested in advancing your care? 

Want to learn more about a particular health topic or service? Questions about classes and events at L+M or Westerly hospitals? We want to hear from you! Tell us what you would like to see in Advancing Care. Send an email to [email protected]. Let us know how Advancing Care can be your go-to health news source.

Billing questions? 

Yale New Haven Health offers financial counseling to patients and families. Spanish-speaking counselors are also available. To make an appointment with a financial counselor, call 855-547-4584.